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While both Ghost's (now Ghost B.C. in America due to legal issues) albums have been hyped to death, there is a big difference between them. Although the first one was basically not much more than a well done throwback, it got the job done. Their schtick was a bit silly, but it fit in with the music and the songs were still enjoyable. On their sophomore, however, their gimmick has gone from a side attraction to the main event. Without all the hype, largely generated from aggressive marketing schemes, it seems doubtful that many would care about this. Now riding mostly on their schtick, the music has suffered from a sharp downward spiral into the stale pits of tedium.
They fervently push marketing ploys detached from the music itself – the hidden identities, a 16th Century orgy in the artwork that some publishers refused to print, the whole Papa Emertius II for pope shenanigans and most recently a dildo and butt plug set. Now the sex toys could have been a humorous little aside if they still had the music to back it up, but at this point they don't appear to have many good songs left in them, so they're really just trying to push a supposedly edgy and dangerous image. Who are they trying to appear edgy to – thirteen year olds just getting into heavy music? Concerned parents? The band has admitted to handing out bribes in order to ensure their anonymity, but does anyone really care who the nameless ghouls are anymore? Everyone already knows that the frontman is almost certainty Tobias Forge (Mary Goore) of Repugnant fame. There is nothing wrong with having a schtick if you have the music to carry it. At this point Ghost really don't.
For their major label debut Ghost headed down to Nashville, joking that it was appropriate to go to a capital of commercial and religious music for their “sell out” record. The band admitted that they were in a hurry to pump out a new album so that they'd have more live material to work with. Unsurprisingly, this does feel rushed. Filler makes up at least half of this release, and everything but one song isn't really all that great. While no one in their right mind could accuse their debut album of being a beacon of heaviness or unrelenting intensity, it still could be considered metal, even if closer to the rock side than most. Infestissumam is basically a bubblegum occult rock album. The pop sensibilities have no problem making their presence known. However, it lacks what makes a pop album successful – being continuously catchy and fun to listen to. Sure they have a catchy chorus here and a nice melody there, but as a whole this is thoroughly boring.
The first single released was “Secular Haze”, one of the worst tracks on the album. The carnivalesque organs are annoying, the riffs benign and the songwriting bland. The second single, “Year Zero” is alright, though nothing spectacular. The one triumph of this album was not released as a single. “Ghuleh / Zombie Queen” is really the only song worth coming back to. The first half is some of the softest material on the album and also the most potent. The surf(esque) melodies and infectious chorus of the second half are also quite enjoyable. The second half of the album is generally better than the first, with “Body and Blood”, “Idolatrine” and “Monstrance Clock” all having solid choruses. The mock church chorus at the end of the album is a nice end to a mediocre release.
For all the hype this has generated, it's pretty damn unmemorable. If we take away the costumes, sex toys and endless marketing gimmicks what do we have? Not a hell of a lot. This not much more than watered down poppy occult-tinged rock album. It's not outright horrible or unlistenable - in fact for the most part it's vaguely pleasant - it's just really uneventful. This has the same problem as much of the pop music that is famous today – image is put before content. They can't hide weak music behind gimmicks forever. If they continue down this route, it is not hard to imagine that their third album will be comprised exclusively of filler.
Originally written for The Metal Observer.